407. Memorandum of Conversation0




  • United States
    • The Secretary
    • Mr. Merchant
    • Ambassador Thompson
    • Mr. Freers
  • United Kingdom
    • Mr. Lloyd
    • Sir Anthony Rumbold
    • Mr. Hancock
    • Mr. Morgan
  • France
    • Mr. Couve de Murville
    • Mr. Lucet
    • Mr. Laloy
    • Mr. Andronikov
  • Soviet Union
    • Mr. Gromyko
    • Mr. Zorin
    • Mr. Malik
    • Mr. Smirnov
    • Mr. Soldatov
    • Mr. Martinov


  • Revised Soviet Proposal, Western Reaction; Conference Recess

Gromyko opened by remarking that in spite of the differences and difficulties, the work of the Ministers had had certain positive aspects. The exchange of views had allowed a clarification of the issues and made it possible to specify the degree of difference on the various points. It represented an effort to bring views closer together. The Soviet Delegation, taking account of the position of the Western Powers and of the actual situation, had submitted new proposals on June 9 and 10 on the burning questions—Berlin and an all-German committee. They [Page 922] regretted that we had taken a negative stand on these proposals. They had taken into consideration bur main objection, which concerned the time limit relating to the Berlin question and to the all-German committee. Gromyko said we had based our objections on a misunderstanding of the essence of their proposals. Since the Western Powers were not at present ready to agree to the immediate and complete abolition of the occupation regime for West Berlin, the Soviet Government had expressed the position that it would not object to the continuation of certain rights in West Berlin for a certain time. The Soviets had proposed working out an agreement for a temporary arrangement on West Berlin to remain in force for a certain period while an all-German committee would work out specific concrete measures concerning the preparation and conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany and concerning reunification of Germany. Thus the essence of their proposals was to work toward gradually liquidating the abnormal situation in West Berlin, and to prepare a peace treaty, and to make arrangements for the reunification of Germany. His next remarks, in verbatim, were:

“On the basis of the exchange of views held at our Conference and taking into account the considerations put forward by the Western Powers, the Soviet Government believes that it is quite possible to find an acceptable basis for agreement on the Berlin question and on the question of an all-German committee.

“An agreement on an interim status of West Berlin should, in the opinion of the Soviet Government, include agreement on the following:

“Reduction of the occupation forces of the Western Powers in West Berlin to symbolic contingents;

“Termination of subversive activities from West Berlin against the GDR and other socialist states;

“Non-location in West Berlin of atomic and rocket weapons.

“These are the measures relating to West Berlin that we should agree upon in the first place.

“The question of a time-limit of that agreement is a matter neither of major importance, nor of principle to us. The Soviet Government is proceeding from the premise that it is impossible to delay a peace settlement with Germany and to preserve the occupation regime in West Berlin ad infinitum. If the time-limit indicated by the Soviet Government does not suit the Western Powers, then we can agree upon another time-limit acceptable to all sides concerned. In the course of the Conference the Western Powers have indicated a definite time-limit for the functioning of an all-German committee, namely, two and a half years. We have indicated a one year time-limit. Now we should try to find something of a medium nature and to reach an agreed decision. We believe that it would be possible to agree upon a one and [a] half year time limit. We are convinced that if agreement is achieved between us on main questions of principle no difficulties will arise in agreeing on necessary time-limits.

“During the period agreed upon between the parties to the agreement the two German states will carry out measures relating to the establishment and activities of an all-German committee composed of the [Page 923] representatives of the GDR and the FRG on a parity basis. The committee should promote extension and development of contacts between the GDR and the FRG, discuss and work out concrete measures for the unification of Germany and consider questions pertaining to the preparation and conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany.

“If during the agreed period no solution of the questions of a peace treaty with Germany and the unification of Germany can be reached within the framework of an all-German committee or otherwise, then the participants of the Geneva Conference of Foreign Ministers of 1959 could resume the consideration of the West Berlin question.

“Should we have to renew the discussion of the West Berlin question after the expiration of the said time-limit, such discussion should undoubtedly be conducted with due regard of a situation obtained by that time.

“For the duration of the agreement the communications of West Berlin with the outside world will be preserved in their present shape.

“As it has already been pointed out in the proposals of the Soviet Government of June 9–10, a supervisory committee composed of the representatives of the United States, the USSR, Great Britain and France is proposed to be established to supervise the fulfillment of the obligations of the parties arising from the above-mentioned agreement on an interim status of West Berlin.

“The above proposals of the Soviet Government meet the views expressed by the Western Powers and constitute a good basis for mutually acceptable agreement on the Berlin question and on an all-German committee.”

[After setting forth the above, Gromyko remarked that the Ministers had, of course, not narrowed differences all the way. There were still great differences on certain questions, particularly on the question of troops.]1 (After the meeting the Soviets released the verbatim text of all of Gromyko’s remarks up to this point—with the exception of the bracketed sentence above. The press release did, however, contain the following paragraphs which were not expressed by Gromyko at this meeting:

“The Soviet delegation takes also cognizance of the fact that in the course of discussions at the Conference the position of the Western Powers and that of the Soviet Union were brought closer together on many questions touched upon in these proposals. This applies among other things, to the reduction of armed forces and non-location of atomic and rocket weapons in West Berlin, the termination of subversive activities, as well as to the necessity of setting up an all-German committee to facilitate a rapprochement of the two German states and to make easier their reunification and to the preparation of a peace treaty with Germany.

“The Soviet Government hopes that the Governments of the USA, Britain and France will approach with due attention the said Soviet proposals and a mutually acceptable agreement will be reached.”)

[Page 924]

Lloyd asked if it were Gromyko’s intention to give us a piece of paper on the points he had just made. Gromyko then circulated a document containing the above proposals, in Russian and what he called unofficial English translation, and asked that it be considered only as a talking paper. Lloyd asked whether it would be published and Gromyko replied that it would not be published today.

The Western Ministers then asked for a recess in the session.

The second afternoon session began at 5:15 p.m.

Mr. Herter said that, acting for the Four Western Foreign Ministers who were in complete agreement on the situation and had reduced their views to writing, he would read a statement. He then read the following statement which was translated into Russian by Martinov immediately thereafter.


“The Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom and the United States have examined the statement made to them this afternoon by Mr. Gromyko. This statement was clearly timed to coincide with Mr. Khrushchev’s speech today2 in which the Western proposals of June 16 were characterized as ‘groundless and unacceptable’. Mr. Gromyko’s statement does not differ in any important aspects from the Soviet proposal of June 9 on which the Western Ministers clearly expressed their views in the meetings of June 10 and 12.

“Although the latest Soviet statement extends the time limit of the proposed agreement from one year to a year and a half, it reserves to the Soviet Union freedom of unilateral action at the expiration of that period. Moreover it is clear that it is the Soviet intention that the Western Powers upon signing such an agreement would acquiesce in the liquidation of their rights in Berlin and the abandonment of their responsibility for maintaining the freedom of the people of West Berlin.

“It is true that there is provision for a resumption of the consideration of the Berlin question by the Four Powers during or at the end of the year and a half period. But if no agreement has been reached in the meantime the Western Powers would enter into any negotiation at the end of that period without any rights at all so far as Berlin or the access to it were concerned.

“In the light of these fundamental objections the Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom and the United States have concluded that the latest Soviet statement constitutes no change in the previous Soviet position. They consider that in the circumstances the wise course is to recess the Conference for a period. They accordingly suggest that the next meeting be postponed until July 13, 1959. This interval would give the Soviet Government the opportunity of considering the Western proposals further. It would give the Western Governments the opportunity to consider the position in relation in particular to Mr. Khrushchev’s [Page 925] statement of today and its connection with the future course of negotiations.”

Gromyko remarked that Mr. Herter described the prolongation of the time limit as representing no change. The Soviet proposals had referred to a year and a half, but he recalled that he had told us they did not foresee any difficulties about the duration of the period. We had named one period of time. They had named another. The year and a half represented something in between. This was not the main question nor was it a question of principle, as far as they were concerned. As to the matter of unilateral action, the Western statement charged that the Soviets in their proposals reserved their freedom to take unilateral action, as purportedly was indicated in Khrushchev’s statements in the Soviet Union and Gromyko’s here. As we knew well, their proposals provided that if the all-German committee reached no agreement within the period prescribed, a conference of the same participants as this present one would be convened to discuss the whole question again. This made the whole question a subject of negotiation and it was not understandable why the matter of unilateral action was raised now. We said that during the period concerned or at the expiration of the time limit or even when the period was entered into, we were without rights. We were free to draw such conclusions but they were not bound to agree to them. They had made no special statements with regard to rights. These were our statements. They had hoped for a favorable response on their proposals. He realized that our reaction was the result of a first acquaintance with these new proposals. He urged that we give them serious consideration. The Soviet Government had not submitted these proposals to complicate the question but in order to facilitate negotiation. As to a recess, they preferred to continue the present talks and reach a positive result at this meeting. If their partners did not want to continue, they could do nothing but take this into account.

Mr. Herter said Gromyko’s remarks about our not having understood their proposals added to his conviction that a recess was desirable. The U.S. would give serious thought to the Russian proposals and we were ready to be persuaded that we were wrong. He suggested July 13 as the date for reconvening the Foreign Ministers Conference.

Lloyd remarked that this date takes into account the fact that Couve could not be here any earlier.

Gromyko said that the problems of all the Ministers should be taken into consideration. He would prefer a two weeks’ recess, for example.

[Page 926]

Mr. Herter said this would be difficult for him. He had already been here six times as long as he had been in the State Department himself since taking over as Secretary. A three weeks recess would be the shortest period he could contemplate.

Gromyko insisted that his problems should be taken into account as well as others.

Both Mr. Herter and Lloyd said they had tried to shorten the time but Couve had a serious problem.

Gromyko would not consider a resumption beginning with the deputies. He asked Couve to share the inconvenience on an equal basis. He suggested July 9 or 10.

Couve said he could make it on the afternoon of the 13th at the earliest. Gromyko accepted and they both thanked each other for their respective accommodating attitudes.

Gromyko suggested a Plenary Meeting to wind up this phase of the conference. The Four Ministers agreed to a Plenary Session tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. which would be purely a formality and at which no speeches would be made.

Gromyko then produced a draft communiqué in Russian which read as follows:

“The exchange of views at the Geneva Conference of Foreign Ministers, which began its work on May 11, significantly facilitated a mutual clarification of the positions of the participants of the conference on the questions discussed, which makes easier their further examination. The Foreign Ministers of the USSR, U.S., U.K. and France agreed to take a recess in the work of the conference and to resume the conference on July 13, 1959.”

Couve said he could subscribe to the second sentence in this draft. Gromyko said they thought the exchange of opinions had been useful, but if we did not, that was a different matter. We ought to agree anyway on something to say to the press today. The Ministers then agreed to say that two private meetings had been held today and the Ministers had agreed to hold a Plenary Session on June 20 at 11:00 a.m.

  1. Source: Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 64 D 560, CF 1340. Secret. Drafted by Freers. The meeting was held at the Soviet Villa. A summary of this conversation was transmitted in. Cahto 139 from Geneva, June 20 at 1 a.m. (Ibid., Central Files, 762.00/6–2059)
  2. Brackets in the source text.
  3. For an extract from Khrushchev’s June 19 speech, see Foreign Ministers Meeting, pp. 316–328 or Documents on Germany, 1944–1985, pp. 667–670.